Why Your Dojo Doesn’t Grow

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And The Answer Is, ‘Systems’ – Or A Lack Thereof

There are a lot of reasons why martial art school owners hit plateaus in the growth of their schools. But no matter the specific reason, their lack of growth can almost always be chalked up to internal, and not external factors.

In other words, it’s almost never “the economy”, “the area”, “the location”, or “the clientele” that’s to blame when a martial art school owner hits a brick wall in increasing their student enrollment numbers.

Nope. Instead, it’s typically something that’s going on within the school – some critical area of business performance that is being overlooked, neglected, or that is completely absent – that’s to blame.

And, this all goes directly back to lacking an overarching, integrated, complete business system to follow in every step of growing your martial art school.

It’s Not Rocket Science… But You Still Need To Follow The Instructions

Anyone can open a martial art school – it doesn’t take a whole lot of business acumen to get a martial art school open. Just a little money (enough for the rent and deposit on the space and utilities, some signage, and your permits) and you’re in business.

However, to stay in business past the first two years… well, that’s another matter. And despite how few schools truly thrive financially, I often hear people saying things like, “running a martial art school isn’t brain surgery” or “it’s not rocket science.

True, martial arts business management is not something that takes a tremendous amount of intelligence to grasp. However, just like assembling your office furniture or your kid’s toys on Christmas eve, you do need to read and follow the instructions.

Most school owners understand this, but this is exactly where the problem starts for the majority of school owners.

Imagine you’re assembling a new desk for your office. And, instead of reading the specific step-by-step instructions for that particular piece of furniture, you took the instructions from several different pieces of furniture and started following steps from different sheets at random.

I’m sure you can see where this is going – you’d soon have a confused mess on your hands.

Without following the instructions that were created to build that particular piece of furniture, you’ll soon be lost. And, by following steps randomly or out of sequence, you’ll likely have to go back, disassemble your work, and start all over again at some point in the process.

A Simple, Basics-First Approach To Starting And Running A Martial Art School

I wrote Small Dojo Big Profits after ten years of figuring out exactly how to start, run, and grow a martial art school from scratch. At the time I wrote it, I’d been running a successful school for eight years.

It took me the first two years to figure things out, and eight more to perfect my system. The first two years represented my trial and error process of learning how to launch a school from scratch, with no financing, credit, or start-up capital to speak of.

I then spent the next eight years developing a simple yet highly effective system for growing and operating a martial art school on a day-to-day basis.

The funny thing is, I had a very good system in place by roughly my fourth year in business. However, I tried and tested other methods along the way (often with disastrous results). In the end, I went back to the system I started with, and was much happier (and more profitable) for doing so.

The end result was that I had built a very stable, low-overhead, high-profit school – one that I could operate while only working an average of 25 hours a week.

And, that’s the system that is distilled and mapped out for you in Small Dojo Big Profits… the “step-by-step instruction manual” for starting and running a small (150 – 250 student) highly profitable martial art school.

It’s custom fit for the instructor who wants to have a thriving business and a life outside their business as well.

Interested? Check out this site to find out more, then order the book or purchase the course if you’re serious about owning a successful dojo.


  1. Jason on May 5, 2010 at 6:15 pm

    Hey Mike,

    I have purchased and devoured the information you outlined in your book. It is spot on and should be required reading before starting a martial arts school. Now, I didn’t end up launching my school right now since I devoted a lot of my time to finishing my book, “The Secret Formula For Success”, but trust me, I will be starting it soon enough once the book is finished. When I do, I won’t try to reinvent the wheel by going through my own trial and errors; rather, I will be using your system to get it done and make it profitable ASAP. However, I have passed along parts of your advice to my instructor who has increased his student count (and ultimately income) with what you have outlined.

    So, I hope more owners start listing to your “Master” advice and utilize the system you used to build your success. If there is one thing I realized, that is there is a formula/system to success and if you follow it you will be successful. If not, you will end up in the failure system, which won’t bring you what you are working your tail off for.

    Thanks again for the great post,


  2. Mary on December 12, 2020 at 12:45 pm

    Hi Mike,

    Happy to say I tried your business card idea, although I switched 1 free lesson to 1 free week, and successfully signed up a new member from it. Not bad since I only have had the cards for 2 weeks so far & barely handed any out yet. Great tip!

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